Some of the most vulnerable women in our community are living in poor, unsafe and unhealthy housing conditions and feel unable to speak out for fear of getting evicted from their rental homes.

As we celebrate Refugee Week and the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society, it’s also very important to raise awareness of the issues affecting refugees.

Settlement Services Officers from Women’s Health in the South East (WHISE), a not-for-profit organisation based in Dandenong, work closely with newly arrived and refugee women to assist them in accessing mainstream services, including finding suitable rental accommodation.

“My clients live mostly in private rentals and often have to move house. One of my tasks is to help them find new accommodation,” says Ms Marian Salvage, Settlement Services Officer at WHISE.

“These women are great tenants – they are fastidious, they don’t drink or smoke or play loud music, or have pets.”

Attending open for inspections on a regular basis with clients, Marian is all too familiar with the unspeakable conditions of the rentals on offer.

“In my experience with rental accommodation, I have come across rot and mould on walls due to excessive moisture; leaking taps, which create a huge problem with the of rising costs of water; clients with young children having to go without hot water for two weeks despite numerous calls; and mice and cockroach infestations, just to name a few,” says Ms Salvage.

“The situation we have at the moment is that landlords appear to have more power when it comes to the rental market. We need to ensure that landlords take responsibility for the properties they rent out,” says Ms Salvage.

This week, we are encouraged to celebrate the best aspects of our nation’s welcome of refugees, acknowledge unjust treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and commit to working together to ensure that we do better.

The women we advocate for deserve better. It’s a basic human right to have a safe place to live, and that’s what our Settlement Service Officers want for their clients.

The Victorian Government is currently reviewing the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). Now is the time to stand up and make your voice heard.

Having a clean and safe place to live is getting harder – but in the current housing boom, making money off the poor and vulnerable is not acceptable. Everyone should have access to safe, affordable and secure housing.

“This is happening in our own backyard and we just can’t stand by and ignore it.”

If you agree, we encourage you to contact your local MP and voice concerns. You can also sign petition: